I get angry too often and too easily, and in that I am not alone. In this fast-paced and self-oriented world, any obstacle or unexpected circumstance can set off the inner flares of anger. Though it may seem that the prevalence of anger is a reflection of how we live today, in truth there is nothing new in our anger. Our ancestors grappled with this powerful, sometimes volcanic, emotion no less than we do. They have lessons to teach us.
MUSSAR IN BROOKLYN: “An Afternoon of Mussar” will be held in Brooklyn, NY, on March 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dr. Alan Morinis and cartoonist Hanan Harchol are among the scheduled presenters. For more information, please click here.
BAY AREA EVENT: Dr. Alan Morinis will be among the presenters for “An Afternoon of Mussar” in Lafayette, CA, on April 10 from 1 to 5 p.m. There will also be a separate track for students in grades 6 through 8 at no charge. For more information, please click here.
MORE UPCOMING EVENTS: One-day TMI events are coming soon to the Rochester, NY, area on May 15 and to Los Angeles on May 22. Registration will open soon. For more updated information on upcoming events in your area, go to http://www.mussarinstitute.org/events.htm.
MUSSAR VIDEO BLOGS: TMI instructor Chaim Safren delivers short weekly Mussar lessons on his video blog. Check out these thought-provoking discussions on rebuke: “The Other Guy” and “This Guy.”
REGISTER FOR PRACTICE RETREATS: The 2016 Practice Retreat dates are set: April 10-13 on the West Coast and June 5-8 on the East Coast. You can register for either Practice Retreat here. Kallah XIV will be held December 1-4 at the Capital Camp and Retreat Center north of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.
We tend to regard anger as bad, even though like all emotions it is neither good nor bad. Anger can be positive when it is directed at injustice and leads to some corrective action. But what injustice makes us angry?
Back in the 1980s, California along with many other states enacted tough-on-crime laws aimed at getting criminals off the street. Many convicted of simple drug possession or minor theft were locked up as felons. Recently, these laws have been revised to be more reasonable. But perhaps a million people in the state have felony convictions for non-violent crimes. A felony conviction on your record not only prevents the person from obtaining social services such as housing assistance but, more importantly, severely limits employment opportunities.
The Practice Corner
The Hebrew word for patience is savlanut, which comes from the same root as “suffer” [sevel] and a “porter” [sabal]. Being patient means bearing or carrying your own emotional suffering. In practice, that means becoming aware of difficult emotions as you experience them, and then just holding them, even embracing them, so they do not take you over and dictate your behavior. You still respond, but it is you responding, not just the passion of the moment roaring through you.
A Mussar practice that applies here is to visualize a potentially provocative situation before it occurs.
If you anticipate that you are going to find yourself in circumstances that might get heated, imagine in advance the argument that might take place. Then, should the hot words actually start to fly, instead of shooting back from shock and affront, your experience will be one of recognition: “This is what I prepared for.” That very thought will help pry open the space between the match and the fuse, that precious territory within which free will and wisdom reside.
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